Primary and community health care

A doctor provides a medical check up to young girlPeople are increasingly impatient with the inability of health services to deliver levels of national coverage that meet stated demands and changing needs, and with their failure to provide services in ways that correspond to their expectations. Few would disagree that health systems need to respond better – and faster – to the challenges of a changing world. Primary health care can do that.The ultimate goal of primary health care is better health for all. Primary health care is health care received in the community, usually from family doctors, community nurses, staff in local clinics or other health professionals. It should be universally accessible to individuals and families by means acceptable to them, with their full participation and at a cost that the community and country can afford. 

WHO has identified five key elements to achieving that goal:

  • reducing exclusion and social disparities in health (universal coverage reforms);
  • organizing health services around people's needs and expectations (service delivery reforms);
  • integrating health into all sectors (public policy reforms);
  • pursuing collaborative models of policy dialogue (leadership reforms); and
  • increasing stakeholder participation.

The Declaration of Alma-Ata in 1978 was the first international declaration advocating primary health care as the main strategy for achieving WHO’s goal of “health for all”.

Related topics

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Education, medical

Health workforce

Nursing and midwifery

Traditional medicine

Universal health coverage

Meeting reports

Summary report on the Expert consultation on mental health in primary health care: finalization of the guidance package for the integration of mental health into primary health care, Cairo, Egypt, 19–20 September 2017

Summary report on the Regional meeting on tools and standards to assess and improve quality of care at the primary care level, Amman, Jordan, 30 May–1 June 2016

Summary report on the Regional consultation on development of the bridge programme for capacity-building of general practitioners in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, Cairo, Egypt, 10–11 May 2016

Summary report on the Second round of the onsite training course for regional master trainers on family practice, Al-Yarmouk, Kuwait, 24–27 April 2016

Summary report on the Meeting on scaling up the Healthy City programme in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, 23–24 February 2016

Summary report on the On-site training course on family practice for regional master trainers, Al Yarmouk, Kuwait, 14–18 November 2015

Report on the Expert consultation on improving the quality of care at primary health care level through the implementation of quality indicators and standards, Cairo, Egypt, 11–12 May 2015

Report on the Regional consultation on strengthening service provision through the family practice approach, Cairo, Egypt, 18–20 November 2014

Report on the regional meeting on strengthening the integration and management of noncommunicable diseases in primary health care, Cairo, Egypt, 8–10 September 2014

Report on the regional consultation on engaging the private health sector for accelerating progress towards universal health coverage, Cairo, Egypt, 23–25 June 2014